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Full text of "Speech of William H. Seward, on the admission of California : delivered in the Senate of the United States, March 11, 1850"

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MARCH 11, 1850. 




Sixth street, south of Pennsylvania avenue. 









MARCH 11, 1850. 




Sixth street, south of Pennsylvania avenue. 


I u 1 

Bancroft Library 



The resolution, submitted by Mr. BENTON, proposing to 
instruct the Committee on Territories to introduce a bill for the 
admission of California, disconnected from all other subjects, 
being under consideration 

MR. SEWARD rose and said : 

MR. PRESIDENT : Four years ago, California, a Mexican 
Province, scarcely inhabited and quite unexplored, was unknown 
even to our usually immoderate desires, except by a harbor, 
capacious and tranquil, which only statesmen then foresaw 
would be useful in the oriental commerce of a far distant, if 
not merely chimerical, future. 

A year ago, California was a mere military dependency of our 
own, and we were celebrating with unanimity and enthusiasm its 
acquisition, with its newly-discovered but yet untold and 
untouched mineral wealth, as the most auspicious of many and 
unparalleled achievements. 

To-day, California is a State, more populous than the least 
and richer than several of the greatest of our thirty States. 
This same California, thus rich and populous, is here asking 
admission into the Union, and finds us debating the dissolution 
of the Union itself. 

No wonder if we are perplexed with ever-changing embarrass 
ments ! No wonder if we are appalled by ever-increasing 
responsibilities ! No wonder if we are bewildered by the ever- 
augmenting magnitude and rapidity of national vicissitudes ! 

individual judgment and conscience, I answer, Yes. For myself, 
as an instructed representative of one of the States, of that one 
even of the States which is soonest and longest to be pressed in 

commercial and political rivalry by the new Commonwealth, I 
answer, Yes. Let California come in. Every new State,, 
whether she come from the East or from the West, every new 
State, coming from whatever part of the continent she may, is 
always welcome. But California, that comes from the clime 
where the west dies away into the rising east ; California, that 
bounds at once the empire and the continent ; California, the 
youthful queen of the Pacific, in her robes of freedom, gorgeously 
inlaid with gold is doubly welcome. 

And now I inquire, first, Why should California be rejected ? 
All the objections are founded only in the circumstances of her 
coming, and in the organic law . which she presents for our 

1st. California comes UNCEREMONIOUSLY, without a prelimi 
nary consent of Congress, and therefore by usurpation. This 
allegation, I think, is not quite true ; at least not quite true in 
spirit. California is here not of her own pure volition. We 
tore California violently from her place in the Confederation of 
Mexican States, and stipulated, by the treaty of Guadalupe 
Hidalgo, that the territory should be admitted by States into 
the American Union as speedily as possible. 

But the letter of the objection still holds. California does 
come without having obtained a preliminary consent of Congress 
to form a Constitution. But Michigan and other States pre 
sented themselves in the same unauthorized way, and Congress 
waived the irregularity^ and sanctioned the usurpation. Cali 
fornia pleads these precedents. Is not the plea sufficient 1 

But it has been said by the honorable Senator from South 
Carolina, [Mr. CALHOUN,] that the Ordinance of 1*787 secured 
to Michigan the right to become a State, when she should have 
sixty thousand inhabitants, and that, owing to some neglect^ 
Congress delayed taking the census. This is said in palliation 
of the irregularity of Michigan. But California, as has been 
seen, had a treaty, and Congress, instead of giving previous 
consent, and instead of giving her the customary Territorial 
Government, as they did to Michigan, failed to do either, and 
thus practically refused both, and so abandoned the new 
community, under most unpropitious circumstances, to anarchy. 
California then made a Constitution for herself, but not 
unnecessarily and presumptuously, as Michigan did. She made 

a Constitution for herself, and she comes here under the law, the 
paramount law, of self-preservation. 

In that she stands justified. Indeed, California is more than 
justified. She was a colony r , a military colony. All colonies, 
especially military colonies, are incongruous with our political 
system, and they are equally open to corruption and exposed to 
oppression. They are, therefore, not more unfortunate in their 
own proper condition than fruitful of dangers to the parent 
Democracy. California, then, acted wisely and well in estab 
lishing self-government. She deserves not rebuke, but praise 
and approbation. Nor does this objection come with a good 
grace from those who offer it. If California were now content 
to receive only a Territorial charter, we could not agree to grant 
it without an inhibition of slavery, which, in that case, being a 
Federal act, would render the attitude of California, as a 
Territory, even more offensive to those who now repel her than 
she is as a State, with the same inhibition in the Constitution 
of her own voluntary choice. 

A second objection is, that California has assigned her own 
boundaries without the previous authority of Congress. But 
she was left to organize herself without any boundaries fixed by 
previous law or by prescription. She was obliged, therefore, to 
assume boundaries, since without boundaries she must have 
remained unorganized. 

A third objection is, that California is too large. 

I answer, first, there is no common standard of States. Cali 
fornia, although greater than many, is less than one of the 

Secondly. California, if too large, may be divided with her 
own consent, and a similar provision is all the security we have 
for reducing the magnitude and averting the preponderance of 

Thirdly. The boundaries of California seem not at all 
unnatural. The territory circumscribed is altogether contig 
uous and compact. 

Fourthly. The boundaries are convenient. They embrace 
only inhabited portions of the country, commercially connected 
with the port of San Francisco. No one has pretended to offer 
boundaries more in harmony with the physical outlines of the 
region concerned, or more convenient for civil administration. 


But to draw closer to the question, What shall be the bound 
aries of a new State ? concerns 

First. The State herself; and California of course is content. 

Secondly. Adjacent communities ; Oregon does not complain 
of encroachment, and there is no other adjacent community to 

Thirdly. The other States of the Union; the larger the 
Pacific States, the smaller will be their relative power in the 
Senate. All the States now here are either Atlantic States or 
inland States, and surely they may well indulge California in the 
largest liberty of boundaries. 

The fourth objection to the admission of California is, that 
no census had been taken, and no laws prescribing the qualifi 
cations of suffrage and the apportionment of Representatives in 
Convention, existed before her Convention was held. 

I answer, California was left to act ab initio. She must 
begin somewhere, without a census, and without such laws. 
The Pilgrim Fathers began in the same way on board the May 
flower ; and, since it has been objected that some of the electors 
in California may have been aliens, I add, that all of the 
Pilgrims Fathers were aliens and strangers to the Common 
wealth of Plymouth. 

Again, the objection may well be waived, if the Constitution 
of California is satisfactory, first to herself, secondly to the 
United States. 

Not a murmur of discontent has followed California to this 

As to ourselves, we confine our inquiries about the Consti 
tution of a new State to four things 

1st. The boundaries assumed ; and I have considered that 
point in this case already. 

2d. That the domain within the State is secured to us ; and 
it is admitted that this has been properly done. 

3d. That the Constitution shall be republican, and not 
aristocratic and monarchical. In this case the only objection 
is, that the Constitution, inasmuch as it inhibits slavery, is 
altogether too republican. 

4th. That the representation claimed shall be just and 
equal. No one denies that the population of California is 
sufficient to demand two Representatives on the Federal basis > 

and, secondly, a new census is at hand, and the error, if there 
is one, will be immediately corrected. 

The fifth objection is, California comes under Executive 

1st. In her coming as a free State. 

2d. In her coming at all. 

The first charge rests on suspicion only, is peremptorily 
denied, and the denial is not controverted by proofs. I dismiss 
it altogether. 

The second is true, to the extent that the President advised 
the people of California, that, having been left without any 
civil government, under the military supervision of the Exec 
utive, without any authority of law whatever, their adoption of 
a Constitution, subject to the approval of Congress, would be 
regarded favorably by the President. Only a year ago, it was 
complained that the exercise of the military power to maintain 
law and order in California, was a fearful innovation. But now 
the wind has changed, and blows even stronger from the opposite 

May this Republic never have a President commit a more 
serious or more dangerous usurpation of power than the act of 
the present eminent Chief Magistrate, in endeavoring to induce 
legislative authority to relieve him from the exercise of military 
power, by establishing civil institutions regulated by law in 
distant provinces ! Rome would have been standing this day, 
if she had had only such generals, and such tribunes. 

But the objection, whether true in part, or even in the whole, 
is immaterial. The question is, not what moved California to 
impress any particular feature on her Constitution, nor even 
what induced her to adopt a Constitution at all ; but it is 
whether, since she has adopted a Constitution, she shall be 
admitted into the Union. 

I have now reviewed all the objections raised against the 
admission of California. It is seen that they have no foundation 
in the law of nature and of nations. Nor are they founded in 
the Constitution, for the Constitution prescribes no form or 
manner of proceeding in the admission of new States, but leaves 
the whole to the discretion of Congress. " Congress may admit 
new States." The objections are all merely formal and 
technical. They rest on precedents which have not always, nor 


even generally, been observed. But it is said that we ought 
now to establish a safe precedent for the future. 

I answer, 1st : It is too late to seize this occasion for that 
purpose. The irregularities complained of being unavoidable, 
the caution should have been exercised when, 1st, Texas was 
annexed ; 2d, when we waged war against Mexico ; or, 3d, 
when we ratified the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. 

I answer, 2d : We may establish precedents at pleasure. 
Our successors will exercise their pleasure about following 
them, just as we have done in such cases. 

I answer, 3d : States, nations, and empires, are apt to be 
peculiarly capricious, riot only as to the time, but even as to the 
manner ) of their being born, and as to their subsequent political 
changes. They are not accustomed to conform to precedents. 
California sprang from the head of the nation, not only complete 
in proportions and full armed, but ripe for affiliation with its 

I proceed now to state my reasons for the opinion that CALI 
FORNIA OUGHT TO BE ADMITTED. The population of the United 
States consists of natives of Caucasian origin, and exotics of the 
same derivation. The native mass rapidly assimilates to itself 
and absorbs the exotic, and thus these constitute one homoge 
neous people. The African race, bond and free, and the 
aborigines, savage and civilized, being incapable of such 
assimilation and absorption, remain distinct, and, owing to their 
peculiar condition, they constitute inferior masses, and may be 
regarded as accidental if not disturbing political forces. The 
ruling homogeneous family planted at first on the Atlantic shore, 
and following an obvious law, is seen continually and rapidly 
spreading itself westward year by year, subduing the wilderness 
and the prairie, and thus extending this great political com 
munity, which, as fast as it advances, breaks into distinct 
States for municipal purposes only, while the whole constitutes 
one entire contiguous and compact nation. 

Well-established calculations in political arithmetic enable us 
to say that the aggregate population of the nation 
now is - - - 22,000,000 

That 10 years hence it will be - - 30,000,000 

That 20 years hence it will be - - - - 38,000,000 
That 30 years hence it will be - - 50,000,000 

That 40 years hence it will be - 64,000,000 

That 50 years hence it will be - 80,000,000 

That 100 years hence, that is, in the year 1950, 

it will be - 200,000,000 

equal nearly to one-fourth of the present aggregate population 
of the globe, and double the population of Europe at the time 
of the discovery of America. But the advance of population on 
the Pacific will far exceed what has heretofore occurred on the 
Atlantic coast, while emigration even here is outstripping the 
calculations on which the estimates are based. There are silver 
and gold in the mountains and ravines of California. The 
granite of New England and New York is barren. 

Allowing due consideration to the increasing density of our 
population, we are safe in assuming, that long before this mass 
shall have attained the maximum of numbers indicated, the 
entire width of our possessions from the Atlantic to the Pacific 
ocean will be covered by it, and be brought into social maturity 
and complete political organization. 

The question now arises, Shall this one great people, having 
a common origin, a common language, a common religion, 
common sentiments, interests, sympathies, and hopes, remain 
one political State, one Nation, one Republic, or shall it be 
broken into two conflicting and probably hostile Nations or 
Republics'? There cannot ultimately be more than two; for 
the habit of association is already formed, as the interests of 
mutual intercourse are being formed. It is already ascertained 
where the centre of political power must rest. It must rest in 
the agricultural interests and masses, who.will occupy the interior 
of the continent. These masses, if they cannot all command 
access to both oceans, will not be obstructed in their approaches 
to that one, which offers the greatest facilities to their commerce. 

Shall the American people, then, be divided? Before 
deciding on this question, let us consider our position, our power, 
and capabilities. 

The world contains no seat of empire so magnificent as this ; 
which, while it embraces all the varying climates of the terfl- 
perate zone, and is traversed by wide expanding lakes and long- 
branching rivers, offers supplies on the Atlantic shores to the 
over-crowded nations of Europe, while on the Pacific coast it 
intercepts the commerce of the Indies. The nation thus 


situated, and enjoying forest, mineral, and agricultural resources 
unequalled, if endowed also with moral energies adequate to the 
achievement of great enterprises, and favored with a Govern 
ment adapted to their character and condition, must command 
the empire of the seas, which alone is real empire. 

We think that we may claim to have inherited physical and 
intellectual vigor, courage, invention, and enterprise ; and the 
systems of education prevailing among us open to all the stores 
of human science and art. 

The old world and the past were allotted by Providence to 
the pupilage of mankind, under the hard discipline of arbitrary 
power, quelling the violence of human passions. The new 
world and the future seem to have been appointed for the 
maturity of mankind, with the development of self-government 
operating in obedience to reason and judgment. 

We have thoroughly tried our novel system of Democratic 
Federal Government, with its complex, yet harmonious and 
effective combination of distinct local elective agencies, for the 
conduct of domestic affairs, and its common central elective agen 
cies, for the regulation of internal interests and of intercourse with 
foreign nations ; and we know that it is a system equally cohesive 
in its parts, and capable of all desirable expansion ; and that it is 
a system, moreover, perfectly adapted to secure domestic tran 
quillity, while it brings into activity all the elements of national 
aggrandizement. The Atlantic States, through their com 
mercial, social, and political affinities and sympathies, are 
steadily renovating the Governments and the social constitutions 
of Europe and of Africa. The Pacific States must necessarily 
perform the same sublime and beneficent functions in Asia. If, 
then, the American people shall remain an undivided nation, the 
ripening civilization of the West, after a separation growing 
wider and wider for four thousand years, will, in its circuit of 
the world, meet again and mingle with the declining civilization 
of the East on our own free soil, and a new and more perfect 
civilization will arise to bless the earth, under the sway of our 
own cherished and beneficent democratic institutions. 

We may then reasonably hope for greatness, felicity, and 
renown, excelling any hitherto attained by any nation, if, 
standing firmly on the continent, we loose not our grasp on the 
shore of either ocean. Whether a destiny so magnificent would 


be only partially defeated, or whether it would be altogether 
lost, by a relaxation of that grasp, surpasses our wisdom to 
determine, and happily it is not important to be determined. 
It is enough, if we agree that expectations so grand, yet so 
reasonable and so just, ought not to be in any degree disap 
pointed. And now it seems to me that the perpetual unity of 
the Empire hangs on the decision of this day and of this hour. 

California is already a State, a complete and fully appointed 
State. She never again can be less than that. She can never 
again be a province or a colony ; nor can she be made to shrink 
and shrivel into the proportions of a federal dependent Terri 
tory. California, then, henceforth and forever, must be, what 
she is now, a State. 

The question whether she shall be one of the United States 
of America has depended on her and on us. Her election has 
been made. Our consent alone remains suspended ; and that 
consent must be pronounced now or never. I say now or never. 
Nothing prevents it now, but want of agreement among our 
selves. Our harmony cannot increase while this question 
remains open. We shall never agree to admit California, unless 
we agree now. Nor will California abide delay. I do not say 
that she contemplates independence ; but, if she does not, it is 
because she does not anticipate rejection. Do you say that she 
can have no motive 1 Consider, then, her attitude, if rejected. 
She needs a Constitution, a Legislature, and Magistrates ; she 
needs titles to that golden domain of yours within her borders ; 
good titles, too ; and you must give them on your own terms, or 
she must take them without your leave. She needs a mint, a 
custom-house, wharves, hospitals, and institutions of learning ; 
she needs fortifications, and roads, and railroads ; she needs the 
protection of an army and a navy ; either your stars and stripes 
must wave over her ports and her fleets, or she must raise aloft 
a standard for herself; she needs, at least, to know whether you 
are* friends or enemies ; and, finally, she needs, what no Amer 
ican community can live without, sovereignty and independ 
ence either a just and equal share of yours, or sovereignty and 
independence of her own. 

Will you say that California could not aggrandize herself by 
separation ? Would it, then, be a mean ambition to set up 
within fifty years, on the Pacific coast, monuments like those- 


which we think two hundred years have been well spent in 
establishing on the Atlantic coast 1 

Will you say that California has no ability to become inde 
pendent 1 She has the same moral ability for enterprise that 
inheres in us, and that ability implies command of all physical 
means. She has advantages of position. She is practically 
further removed from us than England. We cannot reach her 
by railroad, nor by unbroken steam navigation. We can send 
no armies over the prairie, the mountain, and the desert, nor 
across the remote and narrow Isthmus within a foreign jurisdic 
tion, nor around the Cape of Storms. We may send a navy 
there, but she has only to open her mines, and she can seduce 
our navies and appropriate our floating bulwarks to her own 
defence. Let her only seize our domain within her borders, 
and our commerce in her ports, and she will have at once reve 
nues and credit adequate to all her necessities. Besides, are we 
so moderate, and has the world become so just, that we have no 
rivals and no enemies to lend their sympathies and aid to com 
pass the dismemberment of our empire ? 

Try not the temper and fidelity of California at least not 
now, not yet. Cherish her and indulge her until you have ex 
tended your settlements to her borders, and bound her fast by 
railroads, and canals, and telegraphs, to your interests until 
her affinities of intercourse are established, and her habits of 
loyalty are fixed and then she can never be disengaged. 

California would not go alone. Oregon, so intimately allied to 
her, and as yet so loosely attached to us, would go also ; and 
then at least the entire Pacific coast, with the western declivity 
of the Sierra Nevada, would be lost. It would not depend at 
all upon us, nor even on the mere forbearance of California, how 
far eastward the long line across the temperate zone should be 
drawn, which should separate the Republic of the Pacific from 
the Republic of the Atlantic. Terminus has passed away, with 
all the deities of the ancient Pantheon, but his sceptre remains. 
Commerce is the God of boundaries, and no man now living can 
foretell his ultimate decree. 

But it is insisted that the admission of California shall be 
attended by a COMPROMISE of questions which have arisen out 





admitting the purity and the patriotism of all from whom it is 
my misfortune to differ, I think all legislative compromises, not 
absolutely necessary, radically wrong and essentially vicious. 
They involve the surrender of the exercise of judgment and 
conscience on distinct and separate questions, at distinct and 
separate times, with the indispensable advantages it affords for 
ascertaining truth. They involve a relinquishment of the right 
to reconsider in future the decisions of the present, on questions 
prematurely anticipated. And they are acts of usurpation as to 
future questions of the province of future legislators. 

Sir, it seems to me as if slavery had laid its paralyzing hand 
upon myself, and the blood were coursing less freely than its 
wont through my veins, when I endeavor to suppose that such 
a compromise has been effected, and that my utterance forever is 
arrested upon all the great questions social, moral, and polit 
ical arising out of a subject so important, and as yet so incom 

What am I to receive in this compromise 1 Freedom in 
California. It is well ; it is a noble acquisition ; it is worth a 
sacrifice. But what am I to give as an equivalent 1 A recog 
nition of the claim to perpetuate slavery in the District of 
Columbia ; forbearance towards more stringent laws concerning 
the arrest of persons suspected of being slaves found in the free 
States ; forbearance from the Proviso of Freedom in the 
charters of new Territories. None of the plans of compromise 
offered demand less than two, and most of them insist on all of 
these conditions. The equivalent, then, is, some portion of 
liberty, some portion of human rights in one region for liberty 
in another region. But California brings gold and commerce as 
well as freedom. I am, then, to surrender some portion of 
human freedom in the District of Columbia, and in East Cali 
fornia and New Mexico, for the mixed consideration of liberty, 
gold, and power, on the Pacific coast. 

This view of legislative compromises is not new. It has 
widely prevailed, and many of the State Constitutions interdict 
the introduction of more than one subject into one bill submitted 
for legislative action. 

It was of such compromises that Burke said, in one of the 
loftiest bursts of even his majestic parliamentary eloquence : 


" Far, far from the Commons of Great Britain be all manner of real 
vice ; but ten thousand times farther from them, as far as from pole to pole, 
be the whole tribe of spurious, affected, counterfeit, and hypocritical vir 
tues ! These are the things which are ten thousand times more at war 
with real virtue, these are the things which are ten thousand times more at 
war with real duty, than any vice known by its name and distinguished by 
its proper character. 

" Far, far from us be that false and affected candor that is eternally in 
treaty with crime that half virtue, which, like the ambiguous animal that 
flies about in the twilight of a compromise between day and night, is, to a 
just man's eye, an odious and disgusting thing. There is no middle point, 
my Lords, in which the Commons of Great Britain can meet tyranny and 

But, sir, if I could overcome my repugnance to compromises 
in general, I should object to this one, on the ground of the 
inequality and incongruity of the interests to be compromised. 
Why, sir, according to the views I have submitted, California 
ought to come in, and must come in, whether slavery stand or 
fall in the District of Columbia ; whether slavery stand or fall 
in New Mexico and Eastern California ; and even whether 
slavery stand or fall in the slave States. California ought to 
come in, being a free State ; and, under the circumstances of 
her conquest, her compact, her abandonment, her justifiable and 
necessary establishment of a Constitution, and the inevitable 
dismemberment of the empire consequent upon her rejection, I 
should have voted for her admission even if she had come as a 
slave State. California ought to come in, and must come in at 
all events. It is, then, an independent, a paramount question. 
What, then, are these questions arising out of slavery, thus 
interposed, but collateral questions ? They are unnecessary 
and incongruous, and therefore false issues, not introduced 
designedly, indeed, to defeat that great policy, yet unavoidably 
tending to that end. 

Mr. FOOTE. Will the honorable Senator allow me to ask 
him, if the Senate is to understand him as saying that he would 
vote for the admission of California if she came here seeking 
admission as a slave State ? 

Mr. SEWARD. I reply, as I said before, that even if 
California had come as a slave State, yet coming under the 
extraordinary circumstances I have described, and in view of the 
consequences of a dismemberment of the empire, consequent 


upon her rejection, I should have voted for her admission, even 
though she had come as a slave State. But I should not have 
voted for her admission otherwise. 

I remark in the next place, that consent on my part would be 
disingenuous and fraudulent, because the compromise would be 

It is now avowed by the honorable Senator from South 
Carolina, [Mr. CALHOUN,] that nothing will satisfy the slave 
States but a compromise that will convince them that they can 
remain in the Union consistently with their honor and their 
safety. And what are the concessions which will have that 
effect. Here they are, in the words of that Senator : 

" The North must do justice by conceding to the South an equal right in 
the acquired territory, and do her duty by causing the stipulations relative 
to fugitive slaves to be faithfully fulfilled cease the agitation of the slave 
question, and provide for the insertion of a provision in the Constitution, 
by an amendment, which will restore to the South in substance the power 
she possessed, of protecting herself, before the equilibrium between the sec 
tions was destroyed by the action of this Government." 

These terms amount to this : that the free States having 
already, or although they may hereafter have, majorities of 
population, and majorities in both Houses of Congress, shall 
concede to the slave States, being in a minority in both, the 
unequal advantage of an equality. That is, that we shall alter 
the Constitution so as to convert the Government from a 
national democracy, operating by a constitutional majority of 
voices, into a Federal alliance, in which the minority shall have 
a veto against the majority. And this is nothing less than to 
return to the original Articles of Confederation. 

I will not stop to protest against the injustice or the inexpe 
diency of an innovation which, if it was practicable, would be 
so entirely subversive of the principle of democratic institutions. 
It is enough to say that it is totally impracticable. The free 
States, Northern and Western, have acquiesced in the long 
and nearly unbroken ascendency of the slave States under the 
Constitution, because the result happened under the Constitu 
tion. But they have honor and interests to preserve, and there 
is nothing in the nature of mankind or in the character of that 
people to induce an expectation that they, loyal as they are, are 
insensible to the duty of defending them. But the scheme 


would still be impracticable, even if this difficulty were over 
come. What is proposed is a political equilibrium. Every 
political equilibrium requires a physical equilibrium to rest 
upon, and is valueless without it. To constitute a physical 
equilibrium between the slave States and the free States, 
requires, first, an equality of territory, or some near approxi 
mation. And this is already lost. But it requires much more 
than this. It requires an equality or a proximate equality in 
the number of slaves and freemen. And this must be perpetual. 

But the census of 1840 gives a slave basis of only 2,500,000, 
and a free basis of 14,500,000. And the population on the slave 
basis increases in the ratio of 25 per cent, for ten years, while 
that on the free basis advances at the rate of 38 per cent. The 
accelerating movement of the free population, now complained 
of, will occupy the new Territories with pioneers, and every day 
increases the difficulty of forcing or insinuating slavery into 
regions which freemen have pre-occupied. And if this were 
possible, the African slave trade is prohibited, and the domestic 
increase is not sufficient to supply the new slave States which are 
expected to maintain the equilibrium. The theory of a new 
political equilibrium claims that it once existed, and has been 
lost. When lost, and how ? It began to be lost in 1787, when 
preliminary arrangements were made to admit five new free 
States in the Northwest Territory, two years before the Consti 
tution was finally adopted ; that is, it began to be lost two years 
before it began to exist ! 

Sir, the equilibrium, if restored, would be lost again, and lost 
more rapidly than it was before. The progress of the free popu 
lation is to be accelerated by increased emigration, and by new 
tides from South America and from Europe and Asia, while that 
of the slaves is to be checked and retarded by inevitable partial 
emancipation. " Nothing," says Montesquieu, " reduces a man 
so low as always to see freemen, and yet not be free. Persons 
in that condition are natural enemies of the State, and their 
numbers would be dangerous if increased too high." Sir, the 
fugitive slave colonies and the emancipated slave colonies in the 
free States, in Canada, and in Liberia, are the best guaranties 
South Carolina has for the perpetuity of slavery. 

Nor would success attend any of the details of the compro 
mise. And, first, I advert to the proposed alteration of the law 


concerning fugitives from service or labor. I shall speak on 
this as on all subjects, with due respect, but yet frankly and 
without reservation. The Constitution contains only a compact, 
which rests for its execution on the States. Not content with 
this, the slave States induced legislation by Congress ; and the 
Supreme Court of the United States have virtually decided that 
the whole subject is within the province of Congress, and 
exclusive of State authority. Nay, they have decided that 
slaves are to be regarded not merely as persons to be claimed, 
but as property and chattels, to be seized without any legal 
authority or claim whatever. The compact is thus subverted 
by the procurement of the slave States. With what reason, 
then, can they expect the States ex gratia to reassume the 
obligations from which they caused those States to be dis 
charged? I say, then, to the slave States, you are entitled to 
no more stringent laws ; and that such laws would be useless. 
The cause of the inefficiency of the present statute is not at all 
the leniency of its provisions. It is a law that deprives the 
alleged refugee from a legal obligation not assumed by him, but 
imposed upon him by laws enacted before he was born, of the 
writ of habeas cor pus , and of any certain judicial process of 
examination of the claim set up by his pursuer, and finally 
degrades him into a chattel which may be seized and carried 
away peaceably wherever found, even although exercising the 
rights and responsibilities of a free citizen of the Common 
wealth in which he resides, and of the United States a law 
which denies to the citizen all the safeguards of personal liberty, 
to render less frequent the escape of the bondman. And since 
complaints are so freely made against the one side, I shall not 
hesitate to declare that there have been even greater faults on 
the other side. Relying on the perversion of the Constitu 
tion which makes slaves mere chattels, the slave States have 
applied to them the principles of the criminal law, and have 
held that he who aided the escape of his fellow-man from 
bondage was guilty of a larceny in stealing him. I speak of 
what I know. Two instances came within my own knowledge, 
in which Governors of slave States, under the provision of the 
Constitution relating to fugitives from justice, demanded from 
the Governor of a free State the surrender of persons as thieves 
whose alleged offences consisted in constructive larceny of the 


rags that covered the persons of female slaves, whose attempt 
at escape they permitted or assisted. 

We deem the principle of the law for the recapture of 
fugitives, as thus expounded, therefore, unjust, unconstitu 
tional, and immoral ; and thus, while patriotism withholds its 
approbation, the consciences of our people condemn it. 

You will say that these convictions of ours are disloyal, 
{jrant it for the sake of argument. They are, nevertheless, 
honest ; and the law is to be executed among us, not among 
you ; not by us, but by the Federal authority. Has any Gov 
ernment ever succeeded in changing the moral convictions of its 
subjects by force 1 But these convictions imply no disloyalty. 
We reverence the Constitution, although we perceive this defect, 
just as we acknowledge the splendor and the power of the sun, 
although its surface is tarnished with here and there an opaque 

Your Constitution and laws convert hospitality to the refugee 
from the most degrading oppression on earth into a crime, but 
all mankind except you esteem that hospitality a virtue. The 
right of extradition of a fugitive from justice is not admitted by 
the law of nature and of nations, but rests in voluntary com 
pacts. I know of only two compacts found in diplomatic 
history that admitted EXTRADITION OF SLAVES. Here is one of 
them. It is found in a treaty of peace made between Alexander, 
Comnenus, and Leontine, Greek Emperors at Constantinople, 
and Oleg, King of Russia, in the year 902, and is in these 
words : 

" If a Russian slave take flight, or even if he is carried away by any one 
under pretence of having been bought, his master shall have the right and 
power to pursue him, and hunt for and capture him wherever he shall be 
found; and any person who shall oppose the master in the execution of 
this right shall be deemed guilty of violating this treaty, and be punished 

This was in the year of Grace 902, in the period called the 
" Dark Ages," and the contracting Powers were despotisms. 
And here is the other : 

" No person held to service or labor in one State, under the laws thereof, 
escaping into another, shall, in consequence of any law or regulation therein, 
be discharged from such service or labor, but shall be delivered up, on claim 
of the party to whom such service or labor is due." 


This is from the Constitution of the United States in 1787, 
and the parties were the republican States of this Union. The 
law of nations disavows such compacts ; the law of nature, 
written on the hearts and consciences of freemen, repudiates 
them. Armed power could not enforce them, because there is 
no public conscience to sustain them. I know that there are 
laws of various sorts which regulate the conduct of men. There 
are constitutions and statutes, codes mercantile and codes civil ; 
but when we are legislating for States, especially when we are 
founding States, all these laws must be brought to the standard 
of the laws of God, and must be tried by that standard, 
and must stand or fall by it. This principle was happily 
explained by one of the most distinguished political philosophers 
of England in these emphatic words : 

" There is but one law for all, namely, that law which governs all law, 
the law of our Creator, the law of humanity, justice, equity, the law of 
nature and of nations. So far as any laws fortify this primeval law, and 
give it more precision, more energy, more effect, by their declarations, such 
laws enter into the sanctuary and participate in the sacredness of its char 
acter ; but the man who quotes as precedents the abuses of tyrants and 
robbers, pollutes the very fountains of justice, destroys the foundations of 
all law, and therefore removes the only safeguard against evil men, whether 
governors or governed ; the guard which prevents governors from becom 
ing tyrants, and the governed from becoming rebels." 

There was deep philosophy in the confession of an eminent 
English judge. When he had condemned a young woman to 
death, under the late sanguinary code of his country, for her 
first petty theft, she fell down dead at his feet : "I seem 
to myself," said he, " to have been pronouncing sentence, not 
against the prisoner, but against the law itself.' 7 

To conclude on this point. We are not slaveholders. We 
cannot, in our judgment, be either true Christians or real free 
men, if we impose on another a chain that we defy all human 
power to fasten on ourselves. You believe and think otherwise, 
and doubtless with equal sincerity. We judge you not, and 
He alone who ordained the conscience of man and its laws of 
action can judge us. Do we, then, in this conflict of opinion, 
demand of you an unreasonable thing in asking that, since you 
will have property that can and will exercise human powers to 
effect its escape, you shall be your own police, and in acting 
among us as such you shall conform to principles indispensable 


to the security of admitted rights of freemen 7 If you will have 
this law executed, you must alleviate, not increase, its rigors. 

Another feature in most of these plans of compromise is a bill 
of peace for slavery in the District of Columbia ; and this bill 
of peace we cannot grant. We of the free States are, equally 
with you of the slave States, responsible for the existence of 
slavery in this District, the field exclusively of our common 
legislation. I regret that, as yet, I see little reason to hope 
that a majority in favor of emancipation exists here. The 
Legislature of New York, from whom, with great deference, I 
dissent, seems willing to accept now the extinction of the slave 
trade, and waive emancipation. But we shall assume the whole 
responsibility if we stipulate not to exercise the power hereafter 
when a majority shall be obtained. Nor will the plea with 
which you would furnish us be of any avail. If I could under 
stand so mysterious a paradox myself, I never should be able to 
explain to the apprehension of the people whom I represent 
how it was that an absolute and express power to legislate in 
all cases over the District of Columbia was embarrassed and 
defeated by an implied condition not to legislate for the abolition 
of slavery in this District. Sir, I shall vote for that measure, and 
am willing to appropriate any means necessary to carry it into 
execution. And, if I shall be asked what I did to embellish 
the capital of my country, I will point to her freedmen, and say,, 
these are the monuments of my munificence ! 

If I was willing to advance a cause that I deem sacred by 
disingenuous means, I would advise you to adopt those means of 
compromise which I have thus examined. The echo is not 
quicker in its response than would be that loud and universal 
cry of repeal, that would not die away until the habeas corpus 
was secured to the alleged fugitive from bondage, and the sym 
metry of the free institutions of the capital was perfected. 

I apply the same observations to the proposition for a waiver 
of the Proviso of Freedom in Territorial charters. Thus far 
you have only direct popular action in favor of that Ordinance, 
and there seems even to be a partial disposition to await the 
action of the people of the new Territories, as we have compul- 
sorily waited for it in California. But I must tell you, never 
theless, in candor and in plainness, that the spirit of the people 
of the free States is set upon a spring that rises with the 


pressure put upon it. That spring, if pressed too hard, will 
give a recoil that will not leave here one servant who knew his 
master's will, and did it not. 

You will say that this implies violence. Not at all. It 
implies only peaceful, lawful, constitutional, customary action. 
I cannot too strongly express my surprise that those who insist 
that the people of the slave States cannot be held back from 
remedies outside of the Constitution, should so far misunder 
stand us of the free States as to suppose we would not exercise 
our constitutional rights to sustain the policy which we deem 
just and beneficent. 

I come now to notice the suggested compromise of the 
boundary between Texas and New Mexico. This is a judicial 
question in its nature, or at least a question of legal right and 
title. If it is to be compromised at all, it is due to the two 
parties, and to national dignity as well as to justice, that it be 
kept separate from compromises proceeding on the ground of 
expediency, and be settled by itself alone. 

I take this occasion to say, that while I do not intend to 
discuss the questions alluded to in this connection by the honor 
able and distinguished Senator from Massachusetts, I am not 
able to agree with him in regard to the alleged obligation of 
Congress to admit four new slave States, to be formed in the 
State of Texas. There are several questions arising out of 
that subject, upon which I am not prepared to decide now, and 
which I desire to reserve for future consideration. One of 
these is, whether the Article of Annexation does really deprive 
Congress of the right to exercise its choice in regard to the sub 
division of Texas into four additional States. It seems to me 
by no means so plain a question as the Senator from Massachu 
setts assumed, and that it must be left to remain an open 
question, as it is a great question, whether Congress is not a 
party whose future consent is necessary to the formation of new 
States out of Texas. 

MR. WEBSTER. Supposing Congress to have the author 
ity to fix the number, and time of election, and apportionment 
of Representatives, &c., the question is, whether, if new States 
are formed out of Texas, to come into this Union, there is not a 
solemn pledge by law that they have a right to come in as slave 
States 1 


MR. SEWARD. When the States are once formed, they 
have the right to come in as free or slave States, according to 
their own choice ; but what I insist is, that they cannot be 
formed at all without the consent of Congress, to be hereafter 
given, which consent Congress is not obliged to give. But I 
pass that question for the present, and proceed to say that I 
am not prepared to admit that the Article of the Annexation of 
Texas is itself constitutional. I find no authority in the Con 
stitution of the United States for the annexation of foreign 
countries by a resolution of Congress, and no power adequate to 
that purpose but the treaty-making power of the President and 
the Senate. Entertaining this view, I must insist that the 
constitutionality of the annexation of Texas itself shall be 
cleared up before I can agree to the admission of any new 
States to be formed within Texas. 

MR. FOOTE. Did not I hear the Senator observe that he 
would admit California, whether slavery was or was not pre 
cluded from these Territories ? 

MR. SEWARD. I said I would have voted for the admis 
sion of California even as a slave State, under the extraordinary 
circumstances which I have before distinctly described. I say 
that now ; but I say also, that before I would agree to admit 
any more States from Texas, the circumstances which render 
such act necessary must be shown, and must be such as to 
determine my obligation to do so ; and that is precisely what I 
insist cannot be settled now. It must be left for those to whom 
the responsibility will belong. 

Mr. President, I understand, and I am happy in understand 
ing, that I agree with the honorable Senator from Massachu 
setts, that there is no obligation upon Congress to admit four 
new slave States out of Texas, but that Congress has reserved 
her right to say whether those States shall be formed and ad 
mitted or not. I shall rely on that reservation. I shall vote 
to admit no more slave States, unless under circumstances 
absolutely compulsory and no such case is now foreseen. 

MR. WEBSTER. What I said was, that if the States 
hereafter to be made out of Texas choose to come in as slave 
States, they have a right so to do. 

MR. SEWARD. My position is, that they have not a right 
to come in at all, if Congress rejects their institutions. The 


subdivision of Texas is a matter optional with both parties,, 
Texas and the United States. 

MR. WEBSTER. Does the honorable Senator mean to say 
that Congress can hereafter decide whether they shall be slave 
or free States 1 

MR. SEWARD. I mean to say that Congress can here 
after decide whether any States, slave or free, can be framed 
out of Texas. If they should never be framed out of Texas, 
they never could be admitted. 

.Another objection arises out of the principle on which the 
demand for compromise rests. That principle assumes a clas 
sification of the States as Northern and Southern States, as it 
is expressed by the honorable Senator from South Carolina, 
[Mr. CALHOUN,] but into slave States and free States, as 
more directly expressed by the honorable Senator from Georgia, 
[Mr. BERRIEN.] The argument is, that the States are sever 
ally equal, and that these two classes were equal at the first, 
and that the Constitution was founded on that equilibrium; 
that the States being equal, and the classes of the States being 
equal in rights, they are to be regarded as constituting an asso 
ciation in which each State, and each of these classes of States, 
respectively, contribute in due proportions ; that the new Ter 
ritories are a common acquisition, and the people of these 
several States and classes of States have an equal right to par 
ticipate in them, respectively ; that the right of the people of 
the slave States to emigrate to the Territories with their slaves 
as property is necessary to afford such a participation on their 
part, inasmuch as the people of the free States emigrate into 
the same Territories with their property. And the argument 
deduces from this right the principle that, if Congress exclude 
slavery from any part of this new domain, it would be only just 
to set off a portion of the domain some say south of 36 30' , 
others south of 34 which should be regarded at least as free 
to slavery, and to be organized into slave States. 

Argument ingenious and subtle, declamation earnest and bold, 
and persuasion gentle and winning as the voice of the turtle 
dove when it is heard in the land, all alike and altogether have 
failed to convince me of the soundness of this principle of the 
proposed compromise, or of any one of the propositions on which 
it is attempted to be established. 


How is the original equality of the States proved? It rests 
on a syllogism of Vattel, as follows : All men are equal by the 
law of nature and of nations. But States are only lawful 
aggregations of individual men, who severally are equal. There 
fore, States are equal in natural rights. All this is just and 
sound. But assuming the same premises, to wit, that all men 
are equal by the law of nature and of nations, the right of 
property in slaves falls to the ground ; for one who is equal to 
another cannot be the owner or property of that other. But 
you answer, that the Constitution recognises property in slaves. 
It would be sufficient, then, to reply, that this constitutional 
recognition must be void, because it is repugnant to the law of 
nature and of nations. But I deny that the Constitution recog 
nises property in man. I submit, on the other hand, most 
respectfully, that the Constitution not merely does not affirm 
that principle, but, on the contrary, altogether excludes it. 

The Constitution does not expressly affirm anything on the 
subject ; all that it contains is two incidental allusions to slaves. 
These are, first, in the provision establishing a ratio of repre 
sentation and taxation ; and, secondly, in the provision relating 
to fugitives from labor. In both cases, the Constitution design 
edly mentions slaves, not as slaves, much less as chattels, but 
as persons. That this recognition of them as persons was 
designed is historically known, and I think was never denied. 
I give only two of the manifold proofs. First, JOHN JAY, in 
the Federalist^ says : 

" Let the case of the slaves be considered, as it is in truth, a peculiar 
one. Let the compromising expedient of the Constitution be mutually 
adopted which regards them as inJiabitants, but as debased below the equal 
level of free inhabitants, which regards the slave as divested of two-fifths of 
the man." 

Yes, sir, of two-fifths, but of only two-fifths ; leaving still 
three-fifths ; leaving the slave still an inhabitant, a person, a 
living, breathing, moving, reasoning, immortal man. 

The other proof is from the Debates in the Convention. It 
is brief, and I think instructive : 

"AUGUST 28, 1787. 

" Mr. BUTLER and Mr. PINCKNEY moved to require fugitive slaves and 
servants to be delivered up like convicts. 

" Mr. WILSON. This would oblige the Executive of the State to do it at 
public expense. 


" Mr. SHERMAN saw no more propriety in the public seizing and surren 
dering a slave or a servant than a horse. 

" Mr. BUTLER withdrew his proposition, in order that some particular 
provision might be made, apart from this article." 
"AUGUST 29, 1787. 

" Mr. BUTLER moved to insert after article 15 : * If any person bound to 
service or labor in any of the United States shall escape into another State, 
he or she shall not be discharged from such service or labor in consequence 
of any regulation subsisting in the State to which they escape, but shall be 
delivered up to the person justly claiming their service or labor.' ): 

"After the engrossment, September 15, page 550, article 4, section 2, 
the third paragraph, the term ' legally' was struck out, and the words 
' f under the laws thereof inserted after the word ' State/ in compliance 
with the wishes of some who thought the term ' legal ' equivocal, and 
favoring the idea that slavery was legal in a moral view." Madison De 
bates, pp. 487, 492. 

I deem it established, then, that the Constitution does not 
recognise property in man, but leaves that question, as between 
the States, to the law of nature and of nations. That law, as 
expounded by Vattel, is founded on the reason of things. When 
God had created the earth, with its wonderful adaptations, He 
gave dominion over it to Man, absolute human dominion. The 
title of that dominion, thus bestowed, would have been incom 
plete, if the Lord of all terrestrial things could himself have 
been the property of his fellow-man. 

The right to have a slave implies the right in some one to 
make the slave ; that right must be equal and mutual, and this 
would resolve society into a state of perpetual war. But if we 
grant the original equality of the States, and grant also the con 
stitutional recognition of slaves as property, still the argument 
we are considering fails. Because the States are not parties to 
the Constitution as States ; it is the Constitution of the People 
of the United States. 

But even if the States continue as States, they surrendered 
their equality as States, and submitted themselves to the sway 
of the numerical majority, with qualifications or checks ; first, 
of the representation of three-fifths of slaves in the ratio of 
representation and taxation ; and, secondly, of the equal repre 
sentation of States in the Senate. 

The proposition of an established classification of States as 
slave States and free States, as insisted on by some, and into 
Northern and Southern, as maintained by others, seems to me 


purely imaginary, and of course the supposed equilibrium of 
of those classes a mere conceit. This must be so, because, 
when the Constitution was adopted, twelve of the thirteen States 
were slave States, and so there was no equilibrium. And so as 
to the classification of States as Northern States and Southern 
States. It is the maintenance of slavery by law in a State, not 
parallels of latitude, that makes it a Southern State; and the 
absence of this, that makes it a Northern State. And so all 
the States, save one, were Southern States, and there was no 
equilibrium. But the Constitution was made not only for 
Southern and Northern States, but for States neither Northern 
nor Southern the Western States, their coming in being fore 
seen and provided for. 

It needs little argument to show that the idea of a joint stock 
association, or a copartnership, as applicable even by its analo 
gies to the United States, is erroneous, with all the conse 
quences fancifully deduced from it. The United States are a 
political state, or organized society, whose end is government, 
for the security, welfare, and happiness of all who live under 
its protection. The theory I am combating reduces the objects 
of government to the mere spoils of conquest. Contrary to a 
theory so debasing, the preamble of the Constitution not only 
asserts the sovereignty to be, not in the States, but in the 
People, but also promulgates the objects of the Constitution : 

" We, the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect 
union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquillity, provide for the common 
defence, promote the GENERAL WELFARE, and secure the blessings of liberty, 
do ordain and establish this Constitution." 

Objects sublime and benevolent ! They exclude the very 
idea of conquests, to be either divided among States or even 
enjoyed by them, for the purpose of securing, not the blessings 
of liberty, but the evils of slavery. There is a novelty in the 
principle of the compromise which condemns it. Simultaneously 
with the establishment of the Constitution, Virginia ceded to the 
United States her domain, which then extended to the Missis 
sippi, and was even claimed to extend to the Pacific Ocean. 
Congress accepted it, and unanimously devoted the domain to- 
Freedom, in the language from which the Ordinance now so 
severely condemned was borrowed. Five States have already 
been organized on this domain, from all of which, in pursuance 


of that Ordinance, slavery is excluded. How did it happen that 
this theory of the equality of States, of the classification of 
States, of the equilibrium of States, of the title of the States to 
common enjoyment of the domain, or to an equitable and just 
partition between them, was never promulgated, nor even 
dreamed of, by the slave States, when they unanimously con 
sented to that Ordinance 1 

There is another aspect of the principle of compromise which 
deserves consideration. It assumes that slavery, if not the 
only institution in a slave State, is at least a ruling institution, 
and that this characteristic is recognised by the Constitution. 
But slavery is only one of many institutions there. Freedom 
is equally an institution there. Slavery is only a temporary, 
accidental, partial and incongruous one. Freedom, on the con 
trary, is a perpetual, organic, universal one, in harmony with 
the Constitution of the United States. The slaveholder himself 
stands under the protection of the latter, in common with all the 
free citizens of the State. But it is, moreover, an indispensable 
institution. You may separate slavery from South Carolina, 
and the State will still remain ; but if you subvert Freedom 
there, the State will cease to exist. But the principle of this 
compromise gives complete ascendency in the slave States, 
and in the Constitution of the United States, to the subordinate, 
accidental, and incongruous, institution over its paramount 
antagonist. To reduce this claim for slavery to an absurdity,, 
it is only necessary to add that there are only two States in 
which slaves are a majority, and not one in which the slave 
holders are not a very disproportionate minority. 

But there is yet another aspect in which this principle must 
be examined. It regards the domain only as a possession, to be 
enjoyed either in common or by partition by the citizens of the 
old States. It is true, indeed, that the national domain is ours. 
It is true it was acquired by the valor and with the wealth of 
the whole nation. But we hold, nevertheless, no arbitrary 
power over it. We hold no arbitrary authority over anything, 
whether acquired lawfully or seized by usurpation. The Con 
stitution regulates our stewardship ; the Constitution devotes 
the domain to union, to justice, to defence, to welfare, and to 

But there is a higher law than the Constitution, which 


regulates our authority over the domain, and devotes it to the 
same noble purposes. The territory is a part, no inconsidera 
ble part, of the common heritage of mankind, bestowed upon 
them by the Creator of the Universe. We are his stewards, 
and must so discharge our trust as to secure in the highest at 
tainable degree their happiness. How momentous that trust is, 
we may learn from the instructions of the founder of modern 
philosophy : 

" No man," says Bacon, " can by care-taking, as the Scripture saith, 
add a cubit to his stature in this little model of a man's body; but, in the 
great frame of kingdoms and commonwealths, it is in the power of princes 
or estates to add amplitude and greatness to their kingdoms. For, by intro 
ducing such ordinances, constitutions, and customs, as are wise, they may 
sow greatness to their posterity and successors. But these things are com 
monly not observed, but left to take their chance." 

This is a State, and we are deliberating for it, just as our 
fathers deliberated in establishing the institutions we enjoy. 
Whatever superiority there is in our condition and hopes over 
those of any other " kingdom " or " estate " is due to the fortu 
nate circumstance that our ancestors did not leave things to 
" take their chance," but that they " added amplitude and 
greatness " to our commonwealth " by introducing such ordi 
nances, constitutions, and customs, as were wise." We in our 
turn have succeeded to the same responsibilities, and we cannot 
approach the duty before us wisely or justly, except we raise 
ourselves to the great consideration of how we can most cer 
tainly " sow greatness to our posterity and successors." 

And now the simple, bold, and even awful question which 
presents itself to us is this : Shall we, who are founding institu 
tions, social and political, for countless millions ; shall we, who 
know by experience the wise and the just, and are free to choose 
them, and to reject the erroneous and unjust ; shall we estab 
lish human bondage, or permit it by our sufferance to be estab 
lished ? Sir, our forefathers would not have hesitated an hour. 
They found slavery existing here, and they left it only because 
they could not remove it. There is not only no free State 
which would now establish it, but there is no slave State, 
which, if it had had the free alternative as we now have, would 
have founded slavery. Indeed, our revolutionary predecessors 
had precisely the same question before them in establishing an 


organic law under which the States of Ohio, Indiana, Michigan,, 
Illinois, and Wisconsin, have since come into the Union, and 
they solemnly repudiated and excluded slavery from those 
States forever. I confess that the most alarming evidence of 
our degeneracy which has yet been given is found in the fact 
that we even debate such a question. 

Sir, there is no Christian nation, thus free to choose as we 
are, which would establish slavery. I speak on due considera 
tion, because Britain, France, and Mexico, have abolished 
slavery, and all other European States are preparing to abolish 
it as speedily as they can. We cannot establish slavery,, 
because there are certain elements of the security, welfare, and 
greatness of nations, which we all admit or ought to admit, and 
recognise as essential ; and these are the security of natural 
rights, the diffusion of knowledge, and the freedom of industry.. 
Slavery is incompatible with all of these, and just in proportion 
to the extent that it prevails and controls in any republican 
State, just to that extent it subverts the principle of democracy, 
and converts the State into an aristocracy or a despotism. I will 
not offend sensibilities by drawing my proofs from the slave 
States existing among ourselves. But I will draw them from 
the greatest of the European slave States. 
The population of Russia in Europe, in 1844, was 54,251,000 
Of these were serfs - 53,500,000 

The residue nobles, clergy, and merchants, &c. - 751,000 

The Imperial Government abandons the control over the 
fifty-three and a half millions to their owners ; and these owners,, 
included in the 751,000, are thus a privileged class, or aristoc 
racy. If ever the Government interferes at all with the serfs, 
who are the only laboring population, it is by edicts designed to 
abridge their opportunities of education, and thus continue their 
debasement. What was the origin of this system 1 Conquest,, 
in which the captivity of the conquered was made perpetual and 
hereditary. This, it seems to me, is identical with American 
slavery, only at one and the same time exaggerated by the 
greater disproportion between the privileged classes and the 
slaves in their respective numbers, and yet relieved of the un- 
happiest feature of American slavery, the distinction of castes.. 

What but this renders Russia at once the most arbitrary des 
potism and the most barbarous State in Europe 1 And what is 
its effect, but industry comparatively profitless, and sedition, 
not occasional and partial, but chronic and pervading the 
Empire. I speak of slavery not in the language of fancy, but 
in the language of philosophy. Montesquieu remarked upon 
the proposition to introduce slavery into France, that the 
demand for slavery was the demand of luxury and corruption, 
and not the demand of patriotism. Of all slavery, African 
slavery is the worst, for it combines practically the features of 
what is distinguished as real slavery or serfdom with the per 
sonal slavery known in the oriental world. Its domestic 
features lead to vice, while its political features render it inju 
rious and dangerous to the State. 

I cannot stop to debate long with those who maintain that 
slavery is itself practically economical and humane. I might 
be content with saying that there are some axioms in political 
science that a statesman or a founder of States may adopt, 
especially in the Congress of the United States, and that 
among those axioms are these : That all men are created equal, 
and have inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the choice of 
pursuits of happiness ; that knowledge promotes virtue, and 
righteousness exalteth a nation ; that freedom is -preferable to 
slavery, and that democratic Governments, where they can be 
maintained by acquiescence, without force, are preferable to 
institutions exercising arbitrary and irresponsible power. 

It remains only to remark that our own experience has 
proved the dangerous influence and tendency of slavery. All 
our apprehensions of dangers, present and future, begin and 
end with slavery. If slavery, limited as it yet is, now threatens 
to subvert the Constitution, how can we, as wise and prudent 
statesmen, enlarge its boundaries and increase its influence, 
and thus increase already impending dangers 1 Whether, then, 
I regard merely the welfare of the future inhabitants of the 
new Territories, or the security and welfare of the whole people 
of the United States, or the welfare of the whole family of 
mankind, I cannot consent to introduce slavery into any part of 
this continent which is now exempt from what seems to me so 
great an evil. These are my reasons for declining to compro 
mise the question relating to slavery as a condition of the 
admission of California. 


In acting upon an occasion so grave as this, a respectful 
consideration is due to the arguments, founded on extraneous 
considerations, of Senators who commend a course different 
from that which I have preferred. The first of these argu 
ments is, that Congress has no power to legislate on the subject 
of slavery within the Territories. 

Sir, Congress may admit new States; and since Congress 
may admit, it follows that Congress may reject new States. 
The discretion of Congress in admitting is absolute, except that, 
when admitted, the State must be a republican State, and 
must be a STATE : that is, it shall have the constitutional form 
.and powers of a State. But the greater includes the less, and 
therefore Congress may impose conditions of admission not 
inconsistent with those fundamental powers and forms. Bounda 
ries are such. The reservation of the public domain is such. 
The right to divide is such. The Ordinance excluding slavery 
is such a condition. The organization of a Territory is ancil 
lary or preliminary ; it is the inchoate, the initiative act of 
admission, and is performed under the clause granting the 
powers necessary to execute the express powers of the Con 

This power comes from the treaty-making power also, and I 
think it well traced to the power to make needful rules and reg 
ulations concerning the public domain. But this question is 
not a material one now ; the power is here to be exercised. 
The question now is, How is it to be exercised'? not whether 
we shall exercise it at all, however derived. And the right to 
regulate property, to administer justice in regard to property, 
is assumed in every Territorial charter. If we have the power 
to legislate concerning property, we have the power to legislate 
concerning personal rights. Freedom is a personal right; and 
Congress, being the supreme legislature, has the same right in 
regard to property and personal rights in Territories that the 
States would have if organized. 

The next of this class of arguments is, that the inhibition of 
slavery in the new Territories is unnecessary ; and when I 
come to this question, I encounter the loss of many who lead in 
favor of admitting California. I had hoped, some time ago, 
that upon the vastly important question of inhibiting slavery in 
the new Territories, we should have had the aid especially of 


the distinguished Senator from Missouri, [Mr. BENTON;] and 
when he announced his opposition to that measure I was 
induced to exclaim 

Cur in theatrum, Cato severe., venisti? 

An ideo, tantum,, veneras ut exires ? 

But, sir, I have no right to complain. The Senator is 
crowning a life of eminent public service by a heroic and mag 
nanimous act in bringing California into the Union. Grateful 
to him for this, I leave it to himself to determine how far con 
siderations of human freedom shall govern the course which he 
thinks proper to pursue. 

The argument is, that the Proviso is unnecessary. I answer, 
there, then, can be no error in insisting upon it. But why is 
it unnecessary? It is said, first, by reason of climate. I 
answer, if this be so, why do not the representatives of the 
slave States concede the Proviso ? They deny that the climate 
prevents the introduction of slavery. Then I will leave 
nothing to a contingency. But, in truth, I think the weight of 
argument is against the proposition. Is there any climate 
where slavery has not existed ? It has prevailed all over 
Europe, from sunny Italy to bleak England, and is existing 
now, stronger than in any other land, in ice-bound Russia. 
But it will be replied, that this is not African slavery. I 
rejoin, that only makes the case the stronger. If this vigorous 
Saxon race of ours was reduced to slavery while it retained the 
courage of semi-barbarism in its own high northern latitude, 
what security does climate afford against the transplantation of 
the more gentle, more docile, and already enslaved and debased 
African to the genial climate of New Mexico and Eastern 
California ? 

Sir, there is no climate uncongenial to slavery. It is true it 
is less productive than free labor in many northern countries. 
But so it is less productive than free white labor in even trop 
ical climates. Labor is in quick demand in all new countries. 
Slave labor is cheaper than free labor, and it would go first into 
new regions ; and wherever it goes it brings labor into dishonor, 
and therefore free white labor avoids competition with it. Sir,, 
I might rely on climate if I had not been born in a land where 
slavery existed and this land was all of it north of the fortieth 
parallel of latitude ; and if I did not know the struggle it has 


cost, and which is yet going on, to get complete relief from the 
institution and its baleful consequences. I desire to propound 
this question to those who are now in favor of dispensing with 
the Wilmot Proviso : Was the Ordinance of 1787 necessary 
or not? Necessary, we all agree. It has received too many 
elaborate eulogiums to be now decried as an idle and superfluous 
thing. And yet that Ordinance extended the inhibition of 
slavery from the thirty-seventh to the fortieth parallel of north 
latitude. And now we are told that the inhibition named is 
unnecessary anywhere north of 36 30' ! We are told that 
we may rely upon the laws of God, which prohibit slave labor 
north of that line, and that it is absurd to re-enact the laws 
of God. Sir, there is no human enactment which is just that 
is not a re-enactment of the law of God. The Constitution of 
the United States and the Constitutions of all the States are 
full of such re-enactments. Wherever I find a law of God or 
a law of nature disregarded, or in danger of being disregarded, 
there I shall vote to reaffirm it, with all the sanction of the civil 
authority. But I find no authority for the position that climate 
prevents slavery anywhere. It is the indolence of mankind in 
any climate, and not any natural necessity, that introduces 
slavery in any climate. 

I shall dwell only very briefly on the argument derived from 
the Mexican laws. The proposition, that those laws must 
remain in force until altered by laws of our own, is satisfactory; 
and so is the proposition that those Mexican laws abolished and 
continue to prohibit slavery. And still I deem an enactment 
by ourselves wise, and even necessary. Both of the propo 
sitions I have stated are denied with just as much confidence 
by Southern statesmen and jurists as they are affirmed by 
those of the free States. The population of the new Terri 
tories is rapidly becoming an American one, to whom the 
Mexican code will seem a foreign one, entitled to little deference 
or obedience. 

Slavery has never obtained anywhere by express legislative 
authority, but always by trampling down laws higher than any 
mere municipal laws the laws of nature and of nations. 
There can be no oppression in superadding the sanction of 
Congress to the authority which is so weak and so vehemently 
questioned. And there is some possibility, if not probability,. 


that the institution might obtain a foothold surreptitiously, if it 
should not be absolutely forbidden by our own authority. 

What is insisted upon, therefore, is not a mere abstraction 
or a mere sentiment, as is contended by those who waive the 
Proviso. And what is conclusive on the subject is, that it is 
conceded on all hands that the effect of insisting on it is to pre 
vent the intrusion of slavery into the region to which it is 
proposed to apply it. 

It is insisted that the diffusion of slavery will not increase its 
evils. The argument seems to me merely specious, and quite 
unsound. I desire to propose one or two questions in reply 
to it. Is slavery stronger or weaker in these United States, 
from its diffusion into Missouri ? Is slavery weaker or stronger 
in these United States, from the exclusion of it from the North 
west Territory ! The answers to these questions will settle the 
whole controversy. 

And this brings me to the great and all-absorbing argument 
that the Union is in danger of being dissolved, and that it can 
only be saved by compromise. I do not know what I would not 
-do to save the Union ; and therefore I shall bestow upon this 
subject a very deliberate consideration. 

I do not overlook the fact that the entire delegation from the 
slave States, although they differ in regard to the details of 
compromise proposed, and perhaps in regard to the exact circum 
stances of the crisis, seem to concur in this momentous warning. 
Nor do I doubt at all the patriotic devotion to the Union which 
is expressed by those from whom this warning proceeds. 
And yet, sir, although such warnings have been uttered with 
impassioned solemnity in my hearing every day for near three 
months, my confidence in the Union remains unshaken. I think 
they are to be received with no inconsiderable distrust, because 
they are uttered under the influence of a controlling interest to 
be secured, a paramount object to be gained ; and that is an 
equilibrium of pow r er in the Republic. I think they are to be 
received with even more distrust, because, with the most pro 
found respect, they are uttered under an obviously high excite 
ment. Nor is that excitement an unnatural one. It is a law 
of our nature that the passions disturb the reason and judgment 
just in proportion to the importance of the occasion, and the 
consequent necessity for calmness and candor. I think they 


are to be distrusted, because there is a diversity of opinion in 
regard to the nature and operation of this excitement. The 
Senators from some States say that it has brought all parties 
in their own region into unanimity. The honorable Senator 
from Kentucky [Mr. CLAY] says that the danger lies in the 
violence of party spirit, and refers us for proof to the 
difficulties which attended the organization of the House of 
Representatives . 

Sir, in my humble judgment, it is not the fierce conflict of 
parties that we are seeing and hearing ; but, on the contrary, it 
is the agony of distracted parties a convulsion resulting from 
the too narrow foundations of both the great parties, and of all 
parties foundations laid in compromises of natural justice and 
of human liberty. A question, a moral question, transcending 
the too narrow creeds of parties, has arisen; the public con 
science expands with it, and the green withes of party associa 
tions give way and break, and fall off from it. No, sir ; it is 
not the State that is dying of the fever of party spirit. It is 
merely a paralysis of parties, premonitory however of their 
restoration, with new elements of health and vigor to be 
imbibed from that spirit of the age which is so justly called 

Nor is the evil that of unlicensed, irregular, and turbulent 
faction. We are told that twenty Legislatures are in session, 
burning like furnaces, heating and inflaming the popular pas 
sions. But these twenty Legislatures are constitutional fur 
naces. They are performing their customary functions, im 
parting healthful heat and vitality while within their constitu 
tional jurisdiction. If they rage beyond its limits, the popular 
passions of this country are not at all, I think, in danger of 
being inflamed to excess. No, sir ; let none of these fires be 
extinguished. Forever let them burn and blaze. They are 
neither ominous meteors nor baleful comets, but planets ; and 
bright and intense as their heat may be, it is their native tem 
perature, and they must still obey the law which, by attraction 
toward this solar centre, holds them in their spheres. 

I see nothing of that conflict between the Southern and 
Northern States, or between their representative bodies, which 
seems to be on all sides of me assumed. Not a word of menace, 
not a word of anger, not an intemperate word, has been uttered 


in the Northern Legislatures. They firmly but calmly assert 
their convictions ; but at the same time they assert their 
unqualified consent to submit to the common arbiter, and for 
weal or wo abide the fortunes of the Union. 

What if there be less of moderation in the Legislatures of 
the South ? It only indicates on which side the balance is 
inclining, and that the decision of the momentous question is 
near at hand. I agree with those who say that there can be no 
peaceful dissolution no dissolution of the Union by the seces 
sion of States ; but that disunion, dissolution, happen when it 
may, will and must be revolution. I discover no omens of 
revolution. The predictions of the political astrologers do not 
agree as to the time or manner in which it is to occur. Accord 
ing to the authority of the honorable Senator from Alabama, 
[Mr. CLEMENS,] the event has already happened, and the 
Union is now in ruins. According to the honorable and 
distinguished Senator from South Carolina, [Mr. CALHOUN,] it 
is not to be immediate, but to be developed by time. 

What are the omens to which our attention is directed 1 I 
see nothing but a broad difference of opinion here, and the 
excitement consequent upon it. 

I have observed that revolutions which begin in the palace 
seldom go beyond the palace walls, and they affect only the 
dynasty which reigns there. This revolution, if I understand 
it, began in this Senate chamber a year ago, when the represent 
atives from the Southern States assembled here and addressed 
their constituents on what were called the aggressions of the 
Northern States. No revolution was designed at that time, 
and all that has happened since is the return to Congress of 
legislative resolutions, which seem to me to be only conventional 
responses to the address which emanated from the Capitol. 

Sir, in any condition of society there can be no revolution 
without a cause, an adequate cause. What cause exists here I 
We are admitting a new State ; but there is nothing new in 
that : we have already admitted seventeen before. But it is 
said that the slave States are in danger of losing political 
power by the admission of the new State. Well, sir, is there 
anything new in that? The slave States have always been 
losing political power, and they always will be while they have 
any to lose. At first, twelve of the thirteen States were slave 


States ; now only fifteen out of the thirty are slave States. 
Moreover, the change is constitutionally made, and the Govern 
ment was constructed so as to permit changes of the balance of 
power, in obedience to changes of the forces of the body politic. 
Danton used to say, "It's all well while the people cry Danton 
and Robespierre ; but wo for me if ever the people learn 
to say, Robespierre and Danton ! " That is all of it, sir. The 
people have been accustomed to say, " the South and the 
North ; " they are only beginning now to say, " the North and 
the South." 

Sir, those who would alarm us with the terrors of revolution 
have not well considered the structure of this Government, and 
the organization of its forces. It is a Democracy of property 
and persons, with a fair approximation towards universal educa 
tion, and operating by means of universal suffrage. The con 
stituent members of this Democracy are the only persons who 
could subvert it ; and they are not the citizens of a metropolis 
like Paris, or of a region subjected to the influences of a 
metropolis like France ; but they are husbandmen, dispersed 
over this broad land, on the mountain and on the plain, and on 
the prairie, from the Ocean to the Rocky Mountains, and from 
the great Lakes to the Gulf; and this people are now, while we 
are discussing their imaginary danger, at peace and in their 
happy homes, as unconcerned and uninformed of their peril 
as they are of events occurring in the moon. Nor have the 
alarmists made due allowance in their calculations for the influ 
ence of conservative reaction, strong in any Government, and 
irresistible in a rural Republic, operating by universal suffrage. 
That principle of reaction is due to the force of the habits of 
acquiescence and loyalty among the people. No man better 
understood this principle than MACHIAVELLI, who has told us, 
in regard to factions, that " no safe reliance can be placed in 
the force of nature and the bravery of words, except it be cor 
roborate by custom." Do the alarmists remember that this 
Government has stood sixty years already without exacting one 
drop of blood? that this Government has stood sixty years, 
and treason is an obsolete crime ? That day, I trust, is far 
off when the fountains of popular contentment shall be broken 
up ; but, whenever it shall come, it will bring forth a higher 
illustration than has ever yet been given of the excellence of 


the Democratic system ; for then it will be seen how calmly, 
how firmly, how nobly, a great people can act in preserving 
their Constitution ; whom " love of country moveth, example 
teacheth, company comforteth, emulation quickeneth, and glory 

When the founders of the new Republic of the South come to 
draw over the face of this empire, along or between its parallels 
of latitude or longitude, their ominous lines of dismemberment, 
soon to be broadly and deeply shaded with fraternal blood, they 
may come to the discovery then, if not before, that the natural 
and even the political connections of the region embraced forbid 
such a partition ; that its possible divisions are not Northern 
and Southern at all, but Eastern and Western, Atlantic and 
Pacific ; and that Nature and Commerce have allied indissolubly 
for weal and wo the seceders and those from whom they are to 
be separated ; that while they would rush into a civil war to 
restore an imaginary equilibrium between the Northern States 
and the Southern States, a new equilibrium has taken its place, 
in which all those States are on the one side, and the boundless 
West is on the other. 

Sir, when the founders of the Republic of the South come to 
draw those fearful lines, they will indicate what portions of the 
continent are to be broken off from their connection with the 
Atlantic, through the St. Lawrence, the Hudson, the Delaware, 
the Potomac, and the Mississippi ; what portion of this people 
are to be denied the use of the lakes, the railroads, and the 
canals, now constituting common and customary avenues of 
travel, trade, and social intercourse ; what families and kindred 
are to be separated, and converted into enemies ; and what 
States are to be the scenes of perpetual border warfare, aggra 
vated by interminable horrors of servile insurrection. When 
those portentous lines shall be drawn, they will disclose what 
portion of this people is to retain the army and the navy, and 
the flag of so many victories; and on the other hand, what 
portion of the people is to be subjected to new and onerous 
imposts, direct taxes, and forced loans, and conscriptions, to 
maintain an opposing army, an opposing navy, and the new and 
hateful banner of sedition. Then the projectors of the new 
Republic of the South will meet the question and they may 
well prepare now to answer it What is all this for ? What 


intolerable wrong, what unfraternal injustice, have rendered 
these calamities unavoidable ? What gain will this unnatural 
revolution bring to us 1 The answer will be : All this is done 
to secure the institution of African slavery. 

And then, if not before, the question will be discussed, What 
is this institution of slavery, that it should cause these unpar 
alleled sacrifices and these disastrous afflictions 1 And this will 
be the answer : When the Spaniards, few in number, discov 
ered the Western Indies and adjacent continental America, they 
needed labor to draw forth from its virgin stores some speedy 
return to the cupidity of the court and the bankers of Madrid. 
They enslaved the indolent, inoffensive, and confiding natives, 
who perished by thousands, and even by millions, under that 
new and unnatural bondage. A humane ecclesiastic advised 
the substitution of Africans reduced to captivity in their native 
wars, and a pious princess adopted the suggestion, with a dis 
pensation from the Head of the Church, granted on the ground 
of the prescriptive right of the Christian to enslave the heathen, 
to effect his conversion. The colonists of North America, inno 
cent in their unconsciousness of wrong, encouraged the slave 
traffic, and thus the labor of subduing their territory devolved 
chiefly upon the African race. A happy conjuncture brought 
on an awakening of the conscience, of mankind to the injustice 
of slavery, simultaneously with the independence of the Colonies. 
Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, 
Vermont, New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania, welcomed 
and embraced the spirit of universal emancipation. Re 
nouncing luxury, they secured influence and empire. But the 
States of the South, misled by a new and profitable culture, 
elected to maintain and perpetuate slavey ; and thus, choosing 
luxury, they lost power and empire. BflDCTOft Libran 

When this answer shall be given, it will appear that the 
question of dissolving the Union is a complex question ; that it 
embraces the fearful issue whether the Union shall stand, and 
slavery, under the steady, peaceful action of moral, social, and 
political causes, be removed by gradual, voluntary effort, and 
with compensation, or whether the Union shall be dissolved, and 
civil wars ensue, bringing on violent but complete and imme 
diate emancipation. We are now arrived at that stage of our 
national progress when that crisis can be foreseen, when we 


must foresee it. It is directly before us. Its shadow is upon 
us. It darkens the legislative halls, the temples of worship, 
and the home and the hearth. Every question, political, civil, 
or ecclesiastical, however foreign to the subject of slavery, brings 
up slavery as an incident, and the incident supplants the prin 
cipal question. We hear of nothing but slavery, and we can 
talk of nothing but slavery. And now, it seems to me that all 
our difficulties, embarrassments, and dangers, arise, not out of 
unlawful perversions of the question of slavery, as some suppose, 
but from the want of moral courage to meet this question of 
emancipation as we ought. Consequently, AVC hear on one side 
demands absurd, indeed, but yet unceasing for an immediate 
and unconditional abolition of slavery as if any power, except 
the people of the slave States, could abolish it, and as if they 
could be moved to abolish it by merely sounding the trumpet 
violently and proclaiming emancipation, while the institution is 
intenvoven with all their social and political interests, constitu 
tions, and customs. 

On the other hand, our statesmen say that " slavery has 
always existed, and, for aught they know or can do, it always 
must exist. God permitted it, and he alone can indicate the 
way to remove it." As if the Supreme Creator, after giving 
us the instructions of his providence and revelation for the 
illumination of our minds and consciences, did not leave us in 
all human transactions, with due invocations of his Holy Spirit, 
to seek out his will and execute it for ourselves. 

Here, then, is the point of my separation from both of these 
parties. I feel assured that slavery must give way, and will 
give way, to the salutary instructions of economy, and to the 
ripening influences of humanity ; that emancipation is inevitable, 
and is near ; that it may be hastened or hindered ; and that 
whether it be peaceful or violent, depends upon the question 
whether it be hastened or hindered ; that all measures which 
fortify slavery or extend it, tend to the consummation of vio 
lence ; all that check its extension and abate its strength, tend 
to its peaceful extirpation. But I will adopt none but lawful, 
constitutional, and peaceful means, to secure even that end ; 
and none such can I or will I forego. Nor do I know any im 
portant or responsible body that proposes to do more than this. 
No free State claims to extend its legislation into a slave State. 


None claims that Congress shall usurp power to abolish slavery 
in the slave States. None claims that any violent, unconstitu 
tional, or unlawful measure shall be embraced. And, on the 
other hand, if we offer no scheme or plan for the adoption of the 
slave States, with the assent and co-operation of Congress, it is 
only because the slave States are unwilling as yet to receive 
such suggestions, or even to entertain the question of emancipa 
tion in any form. 

But, sir, I will take this occasion to say that, while I cannot 
agree with the honorable Senator from Massachusetts in pro 
posing to devote eighty millions of dollars to remove the free 
colored population from the slave States, and thus, as it appears 
to me, fortify slavery, there is no reasonable limit to which I am 
not willing to go in applying the national treasures to effect the 
peaceful, voluntary removal of slavery itself. 

I have thus endeavored to show that there is not now, and 
there is not likely to occur, any adequate cause for revolution 
in regard to slavery. But you reply that, nevertheless, you 
must have guaranties ; and the first one is for the surrender of 
fugitives from labor. That guaranty you cannot have, as I 
have already shown, because you cannot roll back the tide of 
social progress. You must be content with what you have. If 
you wage war against us, you can, at most, only conquer us, 
and then all you can get will be a treaty, and that you have 

But you insist on a guaranty against the abolition of slavery 
in the District of Columbia, or war. Well, when you shall 
have declared war against us, what shall hinder us from imme 
diately decreeing that slavery shall cease within the national 
capital ? 

You say that you will not submit to the exclusion of slaves 
from the new Territories. What will you gain by resistance? 
Liberty follows the sword, although her sway is one of peace 
and beneficence. Can you propagate slavery then by the 
sword ? 

You insist that you cannot submit to the freedom with which 
slavery is discussed in the free States. Will war a war for 
slavery arrest or even moderate that discussion 1 No, sir ; 
that discussion will not cease ; war would only inflame it to a 
greater height. It is a part of the eternal conflict between 


truth arid error between mind and physical force the conflict 
of man against the obstacles which oppose his way to an ulti 
mate and glorious destiny. It will go on until you shall termi 
nate it in the only way in which any State or Nation has ever 
terminated it by yielding to it yielding in your own time, and 
in your own manner, indeed, but nevertheless yielding to the 
progress of emancipation. You will do this, sooner or later, 
whatever may be your opinion now ; because nations which 
were prudent and humane, and wise as you are, have done so 

Sir, the slave States have no reason to fear that this inevi 
table change will go too far or too fast for their safety or wel 
fare. It cannot well go too fast or too far, if the only alternative 
is a war of races. 

But it cannot go too fast. Slavery has a reliable and accom 
modating ally in a party in the free States, which, though it 
claims to be, and doubtless is in many respects, a party of pro 
gress, finds its sole security for its political power in the sup 
port and aid of slavery in the slave States. Of course, I do not 
include in that party those who are now co-operating in main 
taining the cause of Freedom against Slavery. I am not of that 
party of progress which in the North thus lends its support to 
slavery. But it is only just and candid that I should bear 
witness to its fidelity to the interests of slavery. 

Slavery has, moreover, a more natural alliance with the 
aristocracy of the North and with the aristocracy of Europe. 
So long as Slavery shall possess the cotton-fields, the sugar- 
fields, and the rice-fields of the world, so long will Commerce 
and Capital yield it toleration and sympathy. Emancipation 
is a democratic revolution. It is Capital that arrests all 
democratic revolutions. It was Capital that in a single year 
rolled back the tide of revolution from the base of the Carpa 
thian mountains, across the Danube and the Rhine, into the 
streets of Paris. It is Capital that is rapidly rolling back the 
throne of Napoleon into the chambers of the Tuileries. 

Slavery has a guaranty still stronger than these in the 
prejudices of caste and color, which induce even large major 
ities in all the free States to regard sympathy with the slave 
as an act of unmanly humiliation and self-abasement, although 
philosophy meekly expresses her distrust of the asserted. 


natural superiority of the white race, and confidently denies 
that such a superiority, if justly claimed, could give a title to 

There remains one more guaranty one that has seldom failed 
you, and will seldom fail you hereafter. New States cling in 
closer alliance than older ones to the Federal power. The 
concentration of the slave power enables you for long periods 
to control the Federal Government with the aid of the new 
States. I do not know the sentiments of the representatives 
of California ; but, my word for it, if they should be admitted 
on this floor to-day, against your most obstinate opposition, they 
would, on all questions really affecting your interests, be found 
at your side. 

With these alliances to break the force of emancipation, there 
will be no disunion and no secession. I do not say that there 
may not be disturbance, though I do not apprehend even 
that. Absolute regularity and order in administration have 
not yet been established in any Government, and unbroken pop 
ular tranquillity has not yet been attained in even the most 
advanced condition of human society. The machinery of our 
system is necessarily complex. A pivot may fall out here, a 
lever may be displaced there, a wheel may fall out of gearing 
elsewhere, but the machinery will soon recover its regularity, 
and move on just as before, with even better adaptation and 
adjustment to overcome new obstructions. 

There are many well-disposed persons who are alarmed at 
the occurrence of any such disturbance. The failure of a legis 
lative body to organize is to their apprehension a fearful omen, 
and an extra-constitutional assemblage to consult upon public 
affairs is with them cause for desperation. Even Senators 
speak of the Union as if it existed only by consent, and, as it 
seems to be implied, by the assent of the Legislatures of the 
States. On the contrary, the Union was not founded in volun 
tary choice, nor does it exist by voluntary consent. 

A Union was proposed to the colonies by Franklin and 
others, in 1754 ; but such was their aversion to an abridgment 
of their own importance, respectively, that it was rejected even 
under the pressure of a disastrous invasion by France. 

A Union of choice was proposed to the colonies in 1775 ; but 
so strong was their opposition that they went through and 


through the war of Independence without having established 
more than a mere council of consultation. 

But with Independence came enlarged interests of agricul 
ture absolutely new interests of manufactures interests of 
commerce, of fisheries, of navigation, of a common domain, of 
common debts, of common revenues and taxation, of the admin 
istration of justice, of public defence, of public honor ; in short, 
interests of common nationality and sovereignty interests 
which at last compelled the adoption of a more perfect Union 
a National Government. 

The genius, talents, and learning of Hamilton, of Jay, and of 
Madison, surpassing perhaps the intellectual power ever 
exerted before for the establishment of a Government, combined 
with the serene but mighty influence of Washington, were only 
sufficient to secure the reluctant adoption of the Constitution 
that is now the object of all our affections and of the hopes of 
mankind. No wonder that the conflicts in which that Consti 
tution was born, and the almost desponding solemnity of Wash 
ington, in his Farewell Address, impressed his countrymen and 
mankind with a profound distrust of its perpetuity 1 No 
wonder that while the murmurs of that day are yet ringing in 
our ears, we cherish that distrust, with pious reverence, as a 
national and patriotic sentiment ! 

But it is time to prevent the abuses of that sentiment. It 
is time to shake off that fear, for fear is always weakness. It 
is time to remember that Government, even when it arises by 
chance or accident, and is administered capriciously and oppres 
sively, is ever the strongest of all human institutions, surviving 
many social and ecclesiastical changes and convulsions ; and that 
this Constitution of ours has all the inherent strength common 
to Governments in general, and added to them has also the 
solidity and firmness derived from broader and deeeper founda 
tions in national justice, and a better civil adaptation to 
promote the welfare and happiness of mankind. 

The Union, the creature of necessities, physical, moral, 
social, and political, endures by virtue of the same necessities ; 
and these necessities are stronger than when it was produced 
stronger by the greater amplitude of territory now covered by 
it stronger by the sixfold increase of the society living under 
its beneficent protection stronger by the augmentation ten 


thousand times of the fields, the workshops, the mines, and the 
ships, of that society ; of its productions of the sea, of the 
plough, of the loom, and of the anvil, in their constant circle of 
internal and international exchange stronger in the long rivers 
penetrating regions before unknown stronger in all the artifi 
cial roads, canals, and other channels and avenues essential not 
only to trade but to defence stronger in steam navigation, in 
steam locomotion on the land, and in telegraph communications, 
unknown when the Constitution was adopted stronger in the 
freedom and in the growing empire of the seas stronger in the 
element of national honor in all lands, and stronger than all in 
the now settled habits of veneration and affection for institutions 
so stupendous and so useful. 

The Union, then, is, not because merely that men choose that 
it shall be, but because some Government must exist here, and 
no other Government than this can. If it could be dashed to 
atoms by the whirlwind, the lightning, or the earthquake, to 
day, it would rise again in all its just and magnificent propor 
tions to-morrow. 

This nation is a globe, still accumulating upon accumulation^ 
not a dissolving sphere. 

I have heard somewhat here, and almost for the first time in 
my life, of divided allegiance of allegiance to the South and to 
the Union of allegiance to States severally and to the Union. 
Sir, if sympathies with State emulation and pride of achieve 
ment could be allowed to raise up another sovereign to divide 
the allegiance of a citizen of the United States, I might recog 
nise the claims of the State to which, by birth and gratitude, I 
belong to the State of Hamilton and Jay, of Schuyler, of the 
Clintons, and of Fulton the State which, with less than two 
hundred miles of natural navigation connected with the ocean, 
has, by her own enterprise, secured to herself the commerce of 
the continent, and is steadily advancing to the command of the 
commerce of the world. But for all this I know only one 
country and one sovereign the United States of America and 
the American People. And such as my allegiance is, is the 
loyalty of every other citizen of the United States. As I speak, 
he will speak when his time arrives. He knows no other 
country and no other sovereign. He has life, liberty, property, 
and precious affections, and hopes for himself and for his posterity, 


treasured up in the ark of the Union. He knows as well and feels 
as strongly as I do that this Government is his own Government ; 
that he is a part of it ; that it was established for him, and that 
it is maintained by him ; that it is the only truly wise, just, free, 
and equal Government that has ever existed ; that no other Gov 
ernment could be so wise, just, free, and equal ; and that it is 
safer and more beneficent than any which time or change could 
bring into its place. 

You may tell me, sir, that although all this may be true, yet 
the trial of faction has not yet been made. Sir, if the trial of 
faction has not been made, it has not been because faction has not 
always existed, and has not always menaced a trial, but because 
faction could find no fulcrum on which to place the lever to 
subvert the Union, as it can find no fulcrum now ; and in this is 
my confidence. I would not rashly provoke the trial ; but I will 
not suffer a fear, which I have not, to make me compromise one 
sentiment, one principle of truth or- justice, to avert a danger 
that all experience teaches me is purely chimerical. Let, then, 
those who distrust the Union make compromises to save it. I 
shall not impeach their wisdom, as I certainly cannot their 
patriotism ; but indulging no such apprehensions myself, I shall 
vote for the admission of California directly, without conditions, 
without qualifications, and without compromise. 

For the vindication of that vote I look not to the verdict of 
the passing hour, disturbed as the public mind now is by con 
flicting interests and passions, but to that period, happily not 
far distant, when the vast regions over which we are now legis 
lating shall have received their destined inhabitants. 

While looking forward to that day, its countless generations 
seem to me to be rising up and passing in dim and shadowy 
review before us ; and a voice comes forth from their serried 
ranks, saying : " Waste your treasures and your armies, if you 
will ; raze your fortifications to the ground ; sink your navies 
into the sea ; transmit to us even a dishonored name, if you 
must ; but the soil you hold in trust for us give it to us free. 
You found it free, and conquered it to extend a better and surer 
freedom over it. Whatever choice you have made for your 
selves, let us have no partial freedom ; let us all be free ; let 
the reversion of your broad domain descend to us unincumbered, 
and free from the calamities and the sorrows of human bondage."